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July 10, 2024

Kitchens With Main Character Energy

Four local experts share the recipe for designing their clients’ movie-star-worthy dream kitchens


THERE’S A SCENE in the cult-classic Nancy Meyers film “It’s Complicated” where Meryl Streep’s character, Jane Adler, exclaims to her architect, played by Steve Martin, that he gets her. “I’m finally getting a real kitchen with four walls and a place to put everything I want,” Adler/Streep gushes. “You actually understood what I wanted.” 

While Meyers is a filmmaker known for her fabulously aspirational kitchens, the scene underscores a very real notion: Given the importance of our kitchen’s hallowed walls, when the space stops working for you, it might be time to think about what would. 

For these four real Savannah homes, four talented teams of architects, designers, builders and homeowners put pen to paper and tackled just this — rethinking what will work. “If you’re fighting with your house every day, it’s just not fun,” says Reshma Shah Johnson, founding principal of SHAH Architecture & Interiors. “When a space renovation can support or set the stage for the life you live, it’s even better.” So, turn on your favorite movie soundtrack and keep reading for four kitchens with a new Jane Adler-approved lease on life.


Photography by MICHAEL SCHALK

After purchasing a neglected 1950s brick ranch in Ardsley Park, Kathy and Craig Hull quickly realized it was time to call in reinforcements. With mold along the walls, water damage and a kitchen that would never work for this cooking and entertaining-loving couple, Stephen White, interior architect at Smith Hall Studio, and Alchemy Restoration came to the rescue.

The first course of action was removing the wall that separated the kitchen and dining room to create one open space. Armed with a larger footprint, White took to heart the couple’s requirements for the space to accommodate serious cooking, entertaining and aging in place. White drew upon the home’s mid-century charm and selected a mix of mocha, brass and black accents to streamline the space. 

Noting the small space might run the risk of feeling crowded, White mixed a combination of shelving and open walls to let the room breathe. “Just because it’s storage doesn’t mean you need to crowd,” White says. “I like small kitchens to feel big. We maximized the space a lot with the verticals.”

For the homeowners, the resulting space was a slam dunk. “There are days where I’ll stand here and eat my dinner in the kitchen because I enjoy it,” Kathy says with a laugh. “My favorite part is the functionality of everything and being able to appreciate the beauty around it.”


  • Homeowners: Kathy and Craig Hull
  • Neighborhood: Ardsley Park
  • Year built: 1950
  • Square footage: 1,520
  • Architect/interior design: Stephen White, Smith Hall Studio
  • General contractor/builder: Alchemy Restoration
  • Kitchen hardware: Top Knobs; Kraus
  • Cabinetry: Plato Woodwork
  • Countertops: AGM/Creative Stone
  • Flooring: original/matched and refinished oak
  • Furniture: refinished mid-century finds
  • Paint: Benjamin Moore
  • Widows and doors: original/refinished
  • Appliances: Monogram; Faber; LG


Photography by ANDREW FRAZIER

When Adrienne and Bret Bell enlisted the help of their close friend and architect, Reshma Shah Johnson, she knew firsthand how much the home wasn’t working for their daily life. As a busy family of three, their 1957 brick ranch in Ardsley Park was long overdue for a serious rethink. At just under 1,900 square feet, though, the existing home didn’t offer much room to play. 

Shah Johnson of SHAH Architecture + Interiors, who was given a lot of free rein, zeroed in on the dining room. Along with her partner Michael C. Johnson and builder Capers Martin of Martin Construction, she elected to repurpose the under-utilized space as the kitchen, pulling it to the front of the home and opening it up to the living room. 

The move made the kitchen a central part of the family’s living space, and the idea of the “family pub” took root. With it, textured neutrals, dark cabinetry and pub-style paneling began to take shape. The team recognized the importance of mixing the living room’s existing details in the new kitchen and chose shaker-style JSI Cabinetry from Savannah Millworks to echo the mouldings throughout the rest of the home. 

The kitchen island, which works double duty as the family’s dining room table, is another nod to a traditional pub table. Out of sight, a “coffee to cocktails” nook works hard for these homeowners, who love to entertain. “Everyone can get together for wine, the kids can grab their things, and it’s just made it so much more of a social atmosphere for us, too,” Adrienne says.

For Shah Johnson, the change is night and day. “It just changed the way they lived,” she says. “Nothing changed about their lives — they still work, they’re still busy, they still have a kid, they still have neighbors who come over impromptu, but now the house sets the stage for that life in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s fighting.”


  • Homeowners: Adrienne and Bret Bell
  • Neighborhood: Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent
  • Year built: 1957
  • Square footage: 1,899
  • Architect: Michael C. Johnson, AIA, SHAH Architecture + Interiors
  • Interior designer: Reshma Shah Johnson, AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, SHAH Architecture + Interiors
  • Builder: Capers Martin, Martin Construction
  • Kitchen hardware: Sandpiper Plumbing & Supply
  • Cabinetry: Savannah Millworks
  • Countertops: Counterfitters
  • Flooring: Cowart Floor Surfacing
  • Paint: Knight’s Painting
  • Tile: Garden State Tile
  • Windows: Custom interior window sashes by Old Mill Woodworks
  • Appliances: Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding


Photography by ANDREW FRAZIER

Inspired by a blue ombre glass mosaic tile with a solid brass inlay, Curry Salandi, owner and principal designer of Curry & Co., transformed an early-aughts kitchen into an elegant and modern space befitting its stylish homeowners, Ida and Warren Zeger. Salandi dressed the kitchen walls from top to bottom in the dazzling glass tile and used it as the guiding palette for the paint colors and even the quartzite counters, whose subtle blue veining is another nod to the central motif. “[Ida] definitely didn’t want a white kitchen,” Salandi says. “She wanted some color and some personality with the backsplash.”

Salandi also worked with the homeowners to develop a more functional layout, adding additional storage while working within the confines of the existing space. The cabinets were outfitted with modern flat panel faces in light blue — a nod to the homeowners’ modern European taste. The 48-inch Thermador range was also adorned with a custom hood outfitted by AWD with brass strappings in a matching shade of blue.

For the homeowners, the end result met their expectations and then some. “Curry was able to translate my requirements with great style into the beautiful kitchen that I now have,” Ida says. Her favorite part? The built-in Thermador coffee and cappuccino maker, which she enjoys every morning. 


  • Homeowners: Ida and Warren Zeger
  • Neighborhood: The Landings
  • Year built: 2001
  • Square footage: 3,616
  • Architect: deLevis Designs
  • Interior designer: Curry Salandi, Curry & Co. 
  • Builder: Stone Construction
  • Kitchen hardware: Top Knobs; Visual Comfort & Co.
  • Cabinetry: AWD
  • Countertops: Walsh Custom Surfaces
  • Flooring: Old Savannah Hardwoods 
  • Paint: Benjamin Moore
  • Tile: Savannah Surfaces 
  • Pantry door: AWD designed by Curry & Co. 
  • Appliances: Thermador; Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding 
  • Furniture: Frontage; Hickory Chair; Lillian August 



For Karen Karp, the shared owner of a 1929 Tybee beach cottage that had been in the family since the late 1940s and hadn’t been renovated for almost three decades, there was no question that a serious renovation was past due. The crux, though, was finding a team that could honor the home’s historic integrity. 

“What was a perfectly suitable kitchen in 1930 naturally grew to be dated and dysfunctional,” explains architect Frank Stevens of Stevens & Associates. “Once given the freedom of Karen’s vision to gut the space and start over, it was not difficult to design a beautiful and highly functional kitchen with an emphasis on counter space, storage and openness.” 

Along with Stevens, Karp employed the help of builder Steve Szczecinski with Summit Construction Services Inc. and Hultman Interiors. A wall separating the kitchen from the dining and family room was promptly scheduled for removal, along with a full house update. Keeping the feel of the original Tybee cottage, though, remained paramount. “I feel like it’s our house but better,” Karp says. 

Operating on a tight budget, Karp spent countless hours working to maintain the beach cottage’s original charm. The homeowner paired an affordable cabinet option from Mantra via Savi Interiors with Stevens’ custom finishes, adding open shelving and diagonal base units that Szczecinski had custom fabricated to match. “We filled in the gaps with custom — everybody was happy,” Szczecinski says. 

Karp selected dark quartz counters and two yellow pendants she found online from Poland for a pop of color, an ode to her Scandinavian-meets-beach cottage vibe. “I had a very strong sense of what we wanted here, and I feel we got it,” Karp says. “I was very thrilled with that.” 


  • Homeowner: Karen Karp
  • Neighborhood: Mid-Island, Tybee Island
  • Year built: 1930
  • Square footage: 1,700
  • Architect: Frank Stevens, Stevens & Associates
  • Interior designer: Hultman Interiors
  • Builder: Steve Szczecinski, Summit Construction Services
  • Kitchen hardware: Sandpiper Supply
  • Cabinetry: Savi Interiors
  • Countertops: MultiStone 
  • Flooring: Coastal Heart Pine
  • Tile: Garden State Tile
  • Windows and doors: Coastal Sash & Door
  • Appliances: Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding; Home Depot
  • Lighting restoration: Brian Dasher, Re-enlighten
  • Plumbing: Henry Plumbing

This story and much more in the Summer issue of Savannah HOMES magazine. Get your copy today!

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